Scientists pioneer technique to identify marine life hotspots


Marine specialists have been using satellite images to help identify important areas for marine life around Scotland's coasts, according to a report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on Tuesday 1st April. Recently available satellite images of ocean colour have been used to help marine biologists identify areas known as fronts. It is the first time the technique has been used successfully in this manner.

Fronts form where different water bodies meet, such as between coastal and saltier oceanic waters. Marine scientists believe these areas attract and support a wider range of marine wildlife and in higher numbers. Mixing of different types of water at fronts can provide nutrients for phytoplankton, the small plants at the base of the marine food web, to grow. This can attract fish and predators such as seabirds and marine mammals to the area.

An ocean colour image showing mean colour front frequency across four seasons. Colour fronts occur with relatively higher mean frequency in areas including the Aberdeenshire coast, Luce Bay and the Mull of Galloway and to the west of the Uists.

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Morven Carruthers at SNH said: "The high resolution of the satellite images we've used helps us to identify fronts close to Scotland's coast. Areas of importance for marine life, such as fronts, are being used to help identify Marine Protected Areas in Scotland's seas."

The full report is available online in PDF format.

Written by: Scottish Natural Heritage